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Monday, March 30, 2009

2009 Final Four to Send Final Two Invites

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The 2009 Final Four will need to be great to redeem a poorly received NCAA Tournament. However, Villanova and Pittsburgh's regional final got the process off to a great start. With the 2009 Final Four halfway filled out, the rest of the2009 Elite Eight looks to continue the 2009 NCAA Tournament's new momentum. The headline game to end the Elite Eight is North Carolina vs. Oklahoma, but the historic Elite Eight game could be earlier, with Louisville against Michigan State.

The 2009 NCAA Tournament can be labeled the Big East conference tournament, by and large. Two Big East schools are already in the Final Four, though many didn't expect Villanova to get in over Pittsburgh. But after Villanova and Pittsburgh provided one classic Big East clash in the NCAA Tournament, Louisville can ensure a sequel today.

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Louisville can make it three Big East schools in the 2009 Final Four, if the Cardinals defeat Michigan State in the Midwest Regional final. Not only that, Louisville's Final Four opponent would be none other than Connecticut, which faced its first real test of the 2009 NCAA Tournament against Missouri and passed.

But in order to avenge a blowout loss at home against Connecticut earlier this season, Louisville has to get to Detroit by beating Michigan State. The Spartans are one of the few non-Big East schools left in the 2009 NCAA Tournament, and a win would be a big boost for them and the embattled Big Ten.

If Louisville gets to the Final Four, the only non-Big East spot in the Final Four will be determined in the Elite Eight's final game. The South Regional finals pits North Carolina against Oklahoma, two teams that had the easiest time getting to the Elite Eight.

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North Carolina has been expected to roll through the NCAA Tournament all season. Now that Ty Lawson seems to be set to play through an injured toe, the Tar Heels could steal the national championship from all the Big East powers.

However, this regional final pits what may be the ultimate NCAA Tournament team, against the year's ultimate player in Blake Griffin. Having recovered from his own late season injuries, Griffin has averaged 30 points through three easy wins for Oklahoma.

North Carolina or Oklahoma will get Villanova in the 2009 Final Four. After this final berth is determined, the 2009 NCAA Tournament will be three games away from its conclusion, and from crowning a new national champion. The odds of a champion not coming from the Big East will be long if three teams get in, but a little better if North Carolina is that sole Final Four team from another conference.

Louisville and Michigan State clash at 2:20 in Indianapolis, with North Carolina and Oklahoma meeting after 5 in Memphis.